Business group says Roads Minister has broken promises on Dartford Tolls

ESSEX FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) has congratulated Road Minister Mike Penning for “setting a new record”, but it’s one he is unlikely to want – the fastest breaking of a ministerial promise, they claim.

Essex FSB Chairman, Iain Wicks, said: “On Thursday 30 June 2011 Roads Minister Mike Penning at 12.29pm promised that from Friday 01 July 2011 if queues for the Dartford Crossing were longer than 10 miles the toll charges would be suspended.

“On Friday 01 July 2011 at around 1.00pm – just 13 hours after the new policy was in place – BBC Travel news reported tail backs were at the 10 mile mark and extended over the next four hours to some 12 miles from the toll booths yet the charges were still being collected for each vehicle going through.

“That must be a record time for any Minister to have broken a promise!

“Ten miles takes the queue to Junction 28 for the A12 at Brentwood which Essex FSB believes is far too long a distance as that can take more than two hours for motorists to reach the crossing but it seems that no matter where the Minister puts the cut off point the Highways Agency will ignore him.

“This is not the first time the Highways Agency has made Mike Penning break a promise and look as if he is not in charge of his department. Last year he promised that a consultation on the future of tolls collections would be launched by 31 December 2010 yet that consultation didn’t start until six months later due to delays caused by the Highways Agency.

“The Highways Agency seems to be a law unto itself. In February this year the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee reported that the Highways Agency had wasted £1 billion through delays in contracts for widening the M25 including the Essex stretch leading to the Dartford Crossing.

“This latest broken promise suggests that Roads Minister Mike Penning needs to either take a firm grip on the way the Highways Agency operates or should make way for a Minister who can take charge and bring the agency back under proper control.”

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